Meditations on MANA


The days are becoming short marking my tenure as ex-officio past MANA Chairman of the Board, and also as a past director representing MANA for constituents in my district — and all reps and manufacturers, for that matter. I can say with conviction that I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to play an active role in MANA over these last seven years.

I have also been blessed to speak with and meet literally thousands of independent professional sales representatives. My path has possibly even crossed with some of you who are reading this very issue of Agency Sales. Each of those conversations has helped me learn something and to grow as both a sales rep — and as a professional. I also believe that all of those small influences have assisted in guiding me through my tenure on the MANA Board. They have enabled me to reflect in my work what you — both the sales rep and the manufacturer who uses reps — need and desire from this organization.

Wow, it is incredible what MANA has accomplished during the last seven years! The list of highlights has grown literally into the hundreds. And while all of them are important to what MANA has done to help the members of this organization and our profession, below are a few of my favorites that I am exceptionally proud and honored to have been a part of:

  1. New webinars, teleforums and seminars to educate reps and manufacturers.
  2. The development of a new website with too many benefits to mention here. Have you tried the new search feature of RepFinder or the manufacturer directory? Check out
  3. Three all-rep Keystone conferences, and now MANA­fest conferences that provide higher learning, community and networking.
  4. Improvements to Agency Sales, bringing you more of what you have asked for.
  5. Updated rep-manufacturer contract guidelines for a win-win philosophy in today’s environment.
  6. New and updated commission protection acts in 12 states.
  7. Becoming a vital part and a contributor to the family of sister associations — both domestic and abroad — and the profession at large.
  8. The hiring of a new MANA CEO.
  9. The purchase of the MANA headquarters building.
  10. The value proposition of all that MANA now offers its members, as stated on our MANA line card. If you have not seen all that MANA offers currently, contact MANA headquarters and ask for a copy. You will be astounded at what you are not yet taking advantage of!

I am honored to have been associated with three past chairmen, who possessed the exceptional skills required to perform their duties as chairman of the MANA Board: Bryant Callahan, Pat Cobb and Mack Sorrells.

I am honored to have been associated with three MANA CEO/Presidents: Lionel Diaz, Joe Miller and Bryan Shirley. Words cannot express what these three individuals have done for the independent sales repre­sentative and manufacturers who use them.

I am honored to have served on a Board of fellow rep agency owners. Each of these 20 or so individuals with whom I served over the past six years brought a unique perspective. I have thoroughly enjoyed each conversation, discussion and debate. MANA and our profession are stronger because of it. I know the time and emotional investment necessary to serve is huge, and I thank each of you for volunteering to make ours a better profession.

MANA was a strong, vibrant and dedicated orga­nization when I started on the Board of Directors in 2003. I believe that statement is still valid today, and I will add that it has grown even stronger with the quality of management, highly effective staff (they are the fine individuals who get it done on a daily basis), exceptional Board members and the quality members (that’s you) it currently has!

I believe I am leaving my active role on the MANA Board in the more-than-capable hands of your Chair­man, David Ice. I have the utmost confidence in David to continue to guide MANA in this great direction.

In closing, I will repeat what I have told MANA CEOs many times: “I am just a blip on the screen in the overall picture of MANA.” I can only hope that my blip has made a positive mark on your world. I know that MANA and all of you have had a positive influence on me.

Connecting Manufacturers and Reps


“Is this potential new principal good for my agency?”

This question reaches far beyond ex­isting business in the territory or a hot new product that fills a gap on your line card. As a rep firm looks at a new line, or as a principal looks at a new rep firm, both are preparing to make a substantial investment of time and effort. Other than start-ups, most reps are busy with the lines they already have, so the real ques­tion is “Will this be the best, most profitable use of my time?”

Internally, our firm has two forms of checklists. … Read the rest

Making the Right Connections


There are many ways to find new lines to represent, but it is critical that you do the research to make sure the principal is a good fit for you.

It’s not one thing — but rather a combination of many — that allows independent manufacturers’ reps and the manufacturers that they partner with to go to market successfully. At least, that’s what a number of reps indicate as they respond to the question, “What’s the most effective means by which to align with prospective principals?”

It’s somewhat telling that an immediate response to that question is either “That’s a … Read the rest

A Sales Strategy That Works!


The most successful sales strategy creates an environment that makes customers want to seek you out.

Trying to get fish into the boat before catching them sounds crazy, something that wouldn’t make sense to experienced fishermen. Even so, it’s the most common error salespeople make, and it accounts — more than anything else — for lost orders and prospects never becoming customers. That’s what happens when you try to get the order before you have a customer.

What salespeople do makes perfect sense to them. Unfortu­nately, it doesn’t compute so well with their prospects and custom­ers. They are so focused … Read the rest

Ethical Theft: Stealing Business From Your Competition


The recent economic challenges are a constant reminder of the need for new business. Sometimes you just have to reach out and grab it.

You are on an airplane, and you strike up a con­versation with the person next to you. She is the decision maker for a company that buys your com­petitor’s products and services. You have such a great exchange during the flight that she asks you for your card and gives you the opportunity to bid for their business. You do, and you win the account. Is this an ethical or unethical way to liberate business from … Read the rest

Knowledge Is Powerless Without Action: Boost Sales Today


Talk is cheap. Without action and accountability, there is no way to manage great results from your sales team.

The biggest sales inhibitor now is the same as it has been for the past decade. Many salespeople know what to do, but are not willing to do it. How many times does a salesperson say he or she knows they should prospect from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., four days a week, but yet they don’t? Just like any other profession, there are always excuses for why we don’t do something that we know we should. This does not mean … Read the rest

Debunking the Myths of Using Indpendent Reps


Many manufacturers make uninformed decisions about working with independent reps. Consultant Tony Higgins lays to rest many common misconceptions.

Independent manufacturers’ representatives have a believer and a friend in Tony Higgins. Higgins is from Windsor VIII, LLC, a Savannah, Georgia-based company active in the sales outsourcing and management field that works with a select group of business-tobusiness manufacturing companies. He recently posted on his blog philosophies that echo many of the same ideas that MANA and ASM have been preaching for years concerning the benefits manufacturers can gain from working closely with a well-chosen network of reps. Entitled “The Myths … Read the rest

12 Ways to Get Your Facebook Account Disabled


Facebook can be a great networking tool for business, but make sure you use it properly and follow the rules, or you may lose your account — and your connections.

Most people who use Facebook don’t spare a thought about whether their Facebook account will be disabled. While I was researching this article, I visited a section of Facebook’s blog that I call “Facebook Purgatory.” This is where the poor souls who have had their accounts disabled go to desperately plead with Facebook to reinstate their accounts. Most have no idea why their account has been disabled, and some have … Read the rest

Characteristics of a Top Producer


Model yourself on these rules to push yourself to the next level.

Selling is an unnatural act. Think about it: when you were growing up, you probably heard these statements (you can finish them yourself):

  • Don’t go where you’re…
  • Don’t talk to…
  • Don’t speak unless you’re…

So, what happens? You grow up and go into sales. You go where you’re not wanted, you’re talking to strangers, and you’re speaking without being spoken to.

How many of your friends in school said, “When I graduate, I’m going into sales!” Not many, I’ll bet. So, how do top producers become that way … Read the rest